Death in Deptford
3. The Coroner's Inquisition
The following is a report of the inquisition into the death of Christopher Marlowe by Willliam Danby, Coroner of the Queen's Household. The document1 was discovered in 1925 by Dr. Leslie Hotson, with the original Latin report and the following translation appearing in his book, The Death of Christopher Marlowe. The report represents the official version of events at Dame Eleanor Bull's house on 30 May 1593.
"KENT/INQUISITION Indented taken at Detford Strand in the aforesaid County of Kent within the verge on the first day of June in the year of the reign of Elizabeth by the grace of God of England France and Ireland Queen defender of the faith &c thirtyfifth, in the presence of William Danby, Gentleman, Coroner of the household of our said lady the Queen, upon view of the body of Christopher Morley, there lying dead & slain, upon oath of Nicholas Draper, Gentleman, Wolstan Randall, gentleman, William Curry, Adrian Walker, John Barber, Robert Baldwyn, Giles ffeld, George Halfepenny, Henry Awger, James Batt, Henry Bendyn, Thomas Batt senior, John Baldwyn, Alexander Burrage, Edmund Goodcheepe, & Henry Dabyns who say [upon] their oath that:
Ingram ffrysar, late of London, Gentleman, and the aforesaid Christopher Morley, and Nicholas Skeres, late of London, Gentleman, and Robert Poley of London aforesaid, Gentleman, on the thirtieth of May in the aforesaid thirtyfifth year, at the aforesaid Detford Strand in the aforesaid County of Kent within the verge about the tenth hour before noon of the same day met together in a room in the house of a certain Eleanor Bull, widow; & there passed the time together & dined & after dinner were in quiet sort together & walked in the garden belonging to the said house until the sixth hour after noon of the same day & then returned from the said garden to the room aforesaid & there together and in company supped;
& after supper the said Ingram & Christopher Morley were in speech & uttered one to the other divers malicious words for the reason that they could not be at one nor agree about the payment of the sum of pence, that is le recknynge, there;
& the said Christopher Morley then lying upon a bed in the room where they supped, & moved with anger against the said Ingram ffrysar upon the words aforesaid spoken between them, and the said Ingram then & there sitting in the room aforesaid with his back towards the bed where the said Christopher Morley was then lying, sitting near the bed, that is, nere the bed, & with the front part of his body towards the table & the aforesaid Nicholas Skeres & Robert Poley sitting on either side of the said Ingram in such a manner that the same Ingram ffrysar in no wise could take flight;
it so befell that the said Christopher Morley on a sudden & of his malice towards the said Ingram aforethought, then & there maliciously drew the dagger of the said Ingram which was at his back, and with the same dagger the said Christopher Morley then & there maliciously gave the aforesaid Ingram two wounds on his head of the length of two inches & of the depth of a quarter of an inch;
where-upon the said Ingram, in fear of being slain, & sitting in the manner aforesaid between the said Nicholas Skeres & Robert Poley so that he could not in any wise get away, in his own defence & for the saving of his life, then & there struggled with the said Christopher Morley to get back from him his dagger aforesaid; in which affray the same Ingram could not get away from the said Christopher Morley;
& so it befell in that affray that the said Ingram, in defence of his life, with the dagger aforesaid to the value of 12d, gave the said Christopher then & there a mortal wound over his right eye of the depth of two inches & of the width of one inch; of which mortal wound the aforesaid Christopher Morley then & there instantly died;
& so the Jurors aforesaid say upon their oath that the said Ingram killed & slew Christopher Morley aforesaid on the thirtieth day of May in the thirtyfifth year named above at Detford Strand aforesaid within the verge in the room aforesaid within the verge in the manner and form aforesaid in the defence and saving of his own life, against the peace of our said lady the Queen, her now crown & dignity;
And further the said Jurors say upon their oath that the said Ingram after the slaying aforesaid perpetrated & done by him in the manner & form aforesaid neither fled nor withdrew himself;
But what goods or chattels, lands or tenements the said Ingram had at the time of the slaying aforesaid, done and perpetrated by him in the manner & form aforesaid, the said Jurors are totally ignorant."
In witness of which thing the said Coroner as well as the Jurors aforesaid to this Inquisition have interchangeably set their seals.
Given the day & year above named &c.
by WILLIAM DANBY Coroner."
The report leaves many questions unasked and there are many hypotheses as to what really happened that day in Deptford, producing theories that range from a Government backed assassination to a faked murder. See our discussion on some interpretations of the Coroner's Inquisition report, and the issues it raises.